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Fats are good and necessary–the right kinds in appropriate amounts

Fifteen years of obsession with “low fat” has damaged the American psyche. Even some proponents of a plant-food diet continue to operate under the fallacy that fats should be avoided and that a low-fat diet is a natural diet.

A very successful political campaign by the soy industry effectively blacklisted tropical oils (coconut and palm) and made “saturated fat” a swear word in nutrition. We were told to use canola, soy, and safflower oils if fat is necessary. Unfortunately, those refined vegetable oils that replaced coconut oil caused an increase in health problems, not a decrease.

Heated to over 400 degrees, deodorized and “purified,” these refined vegetable oils are already rancid and therefore carcinogenic (loaded with free radicals, cancer-causing) when they arrive on the grocery store shelf. Hydrogenated fats are bombarded with hydrogen atoms at high temps to make them solid at room temp; they are deadly “trans fats” that are documented to damage or destroy every cell they encounter.

Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) were essentially run out of the food supply. Some experts theorize that many years of missing MCFA’s may contribute to neurological and nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and  Multiple Sclerosis.

MFCA’s are necessary in our diet and lead to silky hair and smooth, unlined skin, as well as healthy cellular function everywhere in the body. They help utilize EFAs, supplying quick energy (metabolized in the liver like carbs rather than being stored in the adipose tissue or as belly fat) and enhancing our immune system with critical nutrients. Organic, virgin coconut oil has the highest levels of MFCAs (58%) and has provided some of the healthiest and most beautiful people on the planet with excellent nutrition for thousands of years. Dr. Bruce Fife has documented in The Coconut Oil Miracle how Pacific Islanders who are relatively unaffected by Westernization have virtually no heart disease and cancer, and their diet is up to 60 percent fat, most of it saturated fat from coconut! Coconut oil is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal-shown to kill strep, staph, the virus that causes leukemia, and much more.

The fat debate centered on saturation for many years, obscuring other factors. Lauric acid (the immune-boosting compound in mother’s milk) is found abundantly in coconut oil, as well as butter. Use coconut oil in baking and sauteeing (it does not produce trans fatty acids at high temps like other oils). I use pure coconut oil every day on my face and every week on my hair, with excellent anti-aging results. Further, although coconut oil is low in EFAs, it increases the utilization of EFAs by up to 100 percent. It also nourishes the thyroid and increases metabolic rate for up to 24 hours. Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in oleic acid and antioxidants and is an excellent salad oil; it is comprised of long-chain fatty acids that contribute to body fat, so use it in moderation.

And another class of fats, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), are the unsaturated omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids called “essential” because the body cannot manufacture them. The best way to get excellent-quality EFAs is in the form of flax seeds (grind them right before using, as they oxidize quickly), and high-quality flax oil you may buy refrigerated in dark bottles at health food stores. Fish oils are rich in EFAs, but contaminants in water sources and indigestibility in the gut make this source more problematic than flax seed.

I have personally eaten a handful of nuts and one or two entire avocados, daily, for extended periods of time with absolutely no weight gain over my ideal weight. Good sources of fats should be kept to about 10 percent of total calories. This ratio is not difficult to achieve when you eat a wide variety of plant foods, focusing primarily on greens, vegetables, fruits, and legumes, in that order. Higher in fats, but good fats we should eat a small amount of every day, are nuts and seeds, avocado, olives, and coconut. Use unprocessed oils such as flax, olive, and palm or coconut oil minimally.

Fact: Know the difference between good and bad fat, because fats are critical and necessary for a healthy life. Obsessively counting fat grams will not lead to health and leanness. Actively seek out adequate amounts of good dietary fat, including unprocessed, organic coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and refrigerated, fresh flax oil. Eat high-fat whole plant foods like avocados and seeds and nuts of all varieties every day. Avoid “like the plague” fake fats like margarine, and shortening (and other hydrogenated fats such as rapeseed oil found in low-quality peanut butters), vegetable oils, and any processed oil. Avoid animal fats like lard or bacon grease as well.

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